Be bold on housing, child poverty, Labour urges

Last updated 08:33 15/05/2013

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The Government is expected to unveil measures to tackle social housing and child poverty in tomorrow's Budget, but Labour leader David Shearer says it must be bold.

Early indications are Finance Minister Bill English will announce support for a targeted food in schools programme and an extension of income-related rent subsidies beyond the traditional state house to non-government organisations such as churches and iwi.

This morning Shearer told TV3's Firstline food in schools was his party's policy but it shouldn't replace parental responsibility.

"If the Government can do that, from our side, as long as it's a good programme, we'll be supporting it."

Labour would vote for Mana Party leader Hone Harawira's Feed the Kids Bill to first reading.

"It is the responsibility of parents to make sure their kids go to school with a full tummy and have a lunch. [But] for those kids that slip through the cracks, for whatever reason, we need to step in there."

He also supported a warrant of fitness programme for rental houses and increasing the number of affordable homes.

The only way to achieve the later was the Government building them, he said.

Just 5 per cent of houses being built were in the affordable range while the rest were bigger, more expensive homes.

"We have so many kids going into hospital because they have damp houses, no heating there. If the Government is bold what it should be doing is ensuring that housing is well heated and has a heating source."

English said the Budget would include "very practical" measures recommended by a ministerial committee on poverty and housing.

"On social housing ... there is now a consensus between the Government, the housing providers and social services that the system of state housing needs to change reasonably significantly. So we will be signalling further steps in that," he said.

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